By Jane Kingsu-Cheng
When there are no words that can express how we feel, we turn to art.
Such is the case of Nina Bantoto, who was diagnosed with autism at an early age. “Nina was a regular baby but she started losing her eye contact and withdrawing from us at age 2. We were very much concerned and got early intervention, which is crucial for developmental problems. At age 3, she was diagnosed with autism.” reveals her mom Arlene Bantoto.
Over the years, Nina’s family continued to support her passion to paint and illustrate. Her dad Lord fondly remembers how this all started, “When Nina was 5 or 6 years old, she loved Disney and started drawing Mickey and Minnie, Pooh and friends. She was actually quite good and very happy, so we just encouraged her to continue with art. Then as she grew older, we introduced her to sketching, black and whites, shading, anime, painting, etc. It was so natural, so fun, so Nina!”
The proud parents even shared a quote from one of her teachers, “You are like a unicorn. A unicorn has no sadness or regret. I am envious of this. I watch you find pleasures and humor in the most mundane things. These are the things that grown-ups miss and should learn to find. I have watched you laugh and giggle, run and play and make the best and most of your time by being HAPPY. Not only I envy this, but everyone does. You have a beautiful mind.”
Aside from art, Nina is also a fan of Swedish ‘70s band ABBA. “Chiquitita has always been her favorite song. It is a sad song but her favourite line is: But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you; Let me hear you sing once more like you did before. Sing a new song, Chiquitita,” explains her dad Lord.
Her artworks are a reflection of this love, and it shines through everywhere she goes. Now, you get a chance to see them up close at her solo exhibit this November 24-27 at Playhub Events Place in 24 Scout Madrinian, Quezon City. Her works will be presented to the public for the very first time, including pieces that were showcased at The Philippine Embassy in New York City last April 2017. Rehabilitation and Empowerment of Adults and Children with Handicap (REACH) Foundation Inc. is their chosen charity, with a portion of the sales going to this non-stock, non-profit organization.
“No matter what happens in her life, she will face it with a smile. Nina will be alright.” – her parents Lord and Arlene Bantoto